A man who worked at the same firm as the man accused of murdering Renee MacRae and her three-year-old son Andrew told detectives he was approached by someone who asked him if he would be willing to kill.
The court heard Dennis Tyronney sent a letter to detectives which said at the time of the disappearance, he was working across the road from the MacRae Builders head office, where MacDowell was company secretary and where Mrs MacRae’s husband, Gordon, was the boss.
In the letter, Mr Tyronney wrote of an encounter with a man he assumed worked at the builders: “He wanted to see me alone that night to talk and it could be in my favour moneywise.”
Mr Tyronney, who served time in prison and is now dead, told police the man knew he had been in jail and he was “then asked if I was able to kill someone” by “dousing them in acid”.
“I refused point blank. He said to me a few times to me it’s the wife and bairn.
“When it was in the papers about Renee going away, I thought it was Gordy (Gordon MacRae),” the letter said, read out to the High Court at Inverness by Detective Chief Inspector Brian Geddes.
“He warned me off before I left, if you talk to anyone I could be in hot water. Just be quiet,” the court was told.
The jury was told the letter said Mr Tyronney returned some years later to the Inverness firm he met Gordon MacRae, but did not recognise him as being the man who spoke to him that night.
Mr Tyronney told police when he saw officers on television talking about the case he got the “creeps” and added: “I might be a lot of things but I won’t be a killer.”
Mr Tyronney, who was born in Inverness but at the time he wrote the letter had moved to Edinburgh, spoke to police in Leith and said he told them he was offered £500 as an upfront payment and would be offered more once he completed the acid attack.
And, in the statement read out to court, Mr Tyronney said the man, whom he identified as William MacDowell, would arrange the materials.
MacDowell has denied murdering Renee and Andrew MacRae at the Dalmagarry layby, on the A9 near Inverness on November 12 1976.
He is also accused of disposing of the bodies of Mrs MacRae and her son and also disposing of a boot hatch from his Volvo car to defeat the ends of justice, which he denies.
He has lodged a special defence of incrimination and alibi, part of which is he was at the Mercury Motor Inn, Inverness, that evening before going home via his work and a shop.
Murray Macara KC, representing MacDowell, asked Mr Geddes if the “soul focus” of the latest police investigation into the disappearance of Renee and Andrew MacRae was MacDowell, and was told that was “not the case” with a number of avenues investigated.
Mr Geddes told the court the investigation was to identify the killer and find their bodies but, despite extensive inquiries, the search had come to nothing.
Mr MacDowell’s car, a Volvo, has also been scrapped, the court was also told.
The court later heard from ex Glasgow Herald reporter Stuart Lindsay, 78, who was among a group of journalists who tried to question MacDowell a week after the disappearance, following a press conference.
The court heard the journalists went to his property after a reporter had seen a police briefing paper which identified MacDowell as being Mrs MacRae’s lover, and they wanted to verify this.
Mr Lindsay told the trial MacDowell had confirmed that he had been having an affair but that he and his wife, Rosemary, would stay together.
MacDowell told him at the gates to his property he “didn’t think they were dead” and explained they had a telephone code of letting the phone ring twice and hanging up to get the attention of one another.
“He said this phone signalling system had had happened twice since her disappearance,” Mr Lindsay said.
Mr Lindsay said he told MacDowell it had been the only evidence since Mrs MacRae went missing that she was still alive.
Asked if he mentioned this to detectives, Mr Lindsay said: “It must have slipped my mind.”
The trial, before Lord Armstrong, continues.